For the first time ever, fire protection standards mandate the number of firefighters to be sent out on calls and response times for answering emergencies.

The standards, issued by the National Fire Protection Association, are voluntary, but cities routinely use NFPA standards in their fire codes.

The new standards, NFPA 1710 and 1720, require fire departments to send out four-person crews on fire and emergency medical calls, and to respond to certain types of fires in four to eight minutes.

Firefighters, and to a lesser extent fire chiefs, supported the mandates. An association of municipality managers opposed the standards as costly and unrealistic for rural areas. There is also concern that municipalities that do not meet the standard will face liability threats.

NFPA's staffing and response time standards have no effect on OSHA rules in the area of fire protection. The closest OSHA comes to a staffing requirement is its "two in, two out" policy for firefighters. The rule, part of OSHA's respiratory protection standard, says if two firefighters are fighting a fire there must be two others standing by in case a rescue is needed.